The Big Three network morning shows on Wednesday highlighted the upcoming sentencing of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, but only CBS's Early Show identified the disgraced politician as a Democrat and devoted a full segment to him. ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today omitted his party ID, and just gave news briefs on the convict's possible sentence.
CBS correspondent Cynthia Bowers wasted little time before noting that "the former Democratic governor was convicted on 18 counts of corruption, after being caught on a profanity-laced federal wiretap offering political favors in return for financial gain." Bowers played two sound bites from the wiretap recording, including the infamous "bleeping golden" clip from Blagojevich.
Later in the segment, the journalist stated that "ironically, Blagojevich was first elected in 2002 on a platform of cleaning up corruption, in a state known for dirty politics." Bowers played a clip where she asked Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association, "What is it about this state and the city [Chicago] that seems to breed this kind of corruption?" She ended her report by highlighting that "Prosecutors have asked the judge for 15 to 20 years behind bars, a ruling that will likely come today."
ABC news anchor Josh Elliott also noted the possible 15 to 20 year prison sentence during his 16-second-long news brief just after the top of the 8 am Eastern hour, but didn't give his party affiliation. On NBC's Today show, Savannah Guthrie's news brief lasted just eight seconds longer than Elliott's. Both journalists highlighted how Blagojevich was "expected to plead for mercy." CBS's Jeff Glor used a similar line in his introduction to Bowers's report: "In Chicago, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is prepared to plead for mercy today before a judge sentences him for corruption. He faces up to 20 years behind bars."
Back in June 2011, each of the Big Three morning shows omitted the former governor's Democratic affiliation after a jury convicted him. The networks' evening news shows did the same just hours earlier.
The full transcripts of Cynthia Bowers's report from Tuesday's Early Show, which aired seven minutes into the 8 am Eastern hour; as well as Josh Elliott's news brief from Good Morning America; and Savannah Guthrie's brief from the Today show, which began 13 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour:
JEFF GLOR: In Chicago, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is prepared to plead for mercy today before a judge sentences him for corruption. He faces up to 20 years behind bars. Here's Cynthia Bowers.
CYNTHIA BOWERS (voice-over): The normally talkative Rod Blagojevich had little to say when he came home after the first day of the sentencing hearing that will determine his future. The former Democratic governor was convicted on 18 counts of corruption, after being caught on a profanity-laced federal wiretap offering political favors in return for financial gain.
ROD BLAGOJEVICH (from wiretap recording): Time is passing me by and I'm stuck. It's no good. It's no good. I got to get moving!
BOWERS: The most notorious recording captured Blagojevich seeming to offer to sell the Senate seat vacated by newly-elected President Barack Obama.
BLAGOJEVICH: I got this thing and it's [expletive deleted] golden.
BLAGOJEVICH (from press conference): I am appointing Roland Burris as the next United States senator from Illinois.
BOWERS: After he was charged, but before he was impeached and removed from office, Blagojevich shocked the political world by appointing a relative unknown, Roland Burris, to the vacant seat.
His defense contended Blagojevich's actions were merely political horse trading, and at the time of his arrest, no money had changed hands. Rather than shrink from the spotlight after his arrest three years ago, Blagojevich went on an all-out media offensive, appearing on dozens of talk shows, touting his innocence to anyone who would listen.
BLAGOJEVICH (taking oath of office): I, Rod R. Blagojevich-
BOWERS: Ironically, Blagojevich was first elected in 2002 on a platform of cleaning up corruption, in a state known for dirty politics.
BOWERS (on-camera): What is it about this state and the city that seems to breed this kind of corruption?
ANDY SHAW, BETTER GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION: Machine politics- political machines are greased with money, and that, all too often, crosses the line between bad politics and illegality.
BOWERS (voice-over): Prosecutors have asked the judge for 15 to 20 years behind bars, a ruling that will likely come today. Cynthia Bowers, CBS News, Chicago.
JOSH ELLIOTT (from ABC's Good Morning America): Meanwhile, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is expected to plead for mercy today as he waits for a federal judge to sentence him for corruption. In court, Tuesday, Blagojevich admitted trying to sell President Obama's old Senate seat to the highest bidder. Prosecutors are asking for a 15 to 20 year jail sentence.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE (from NBC's Today show): A sentence is expected this morning for disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The impeached governor is expected to address the judge today and ask for mercy, in a last-ditch effort to avoid a lengthy prison term. Prosecutors will also give a final argument about why they think Blagojevich deserves up to 20 years for his conviction on 18 counts of corruption, including an attempt to auction off President Obama's old senate seat.
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